By Deirdre Younge.
Tom Oliver, a farmer from Riverstown, on the Cooley peninsula, was kidnapped, interrogated and murdered by the IRA in July 1991. They alleged he was a Garda informant.
The murder by the IRA’s punishment squad didn’t only cause devastation for his family but split the tight-knit community in which he lived. IRA men living in the area were ostracised and barred from local pubs and GAA clubs while gardaí were told to stay away from the area. The Garda were attacked for their failure to protect Mr Oliver who had given information to the Garda about IRA weapons found on his land. Local IRA men were believed to have been strongly opposed to the murder of the popular family man but were reportedly overruled by Belfast leaders.
Oliver was abducted by a group which included FRU/ MI5 agent Kevin Fulton aka Peter Keeley and there are allegations that Freddie Scappaticci was among those who carried out the interrogations though he has denied it. Keeley gave a vivid description of the night Oliver was snatched and named some of those allegedly involved, at the Smithwick Tribunal in December 2011.
Drew Harris the present Garda Commissioner, then PSNI Head of Legacy, arrived at the Smithwick Tribunal in October 2012 with “new and of the moment” intelligence that a garda who had not been identified to the Smithwick Tribunal after years of private and public investigations was the ‘colluder’ who had betrayed Oliver to the IRA. Operation Kenova took up Oliver’s case and has discovered new DNA evidence.
Oliver’s battered body was found a day later in Belleeks, Co Armagh. The Oliver case has been investigated and reinvestigated by the Garda in Dundalk. The latest reinvestigation just completed has found multiple flaws in the handling of the case.
Operation Kenova under Jon Boutcher took the Oliver case as part of its remit. It has now apparently found new evidence after DNA analysis was done on clothing, which appears to advance the case.
The Tom Oliver case became a central issue in the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin which reported in 2013. FRU (British military intelligence), Special Branch and MI5 agent and informer Kevin Fulton whose real name is Peter Keeley described what he called the “abduction” of Tom Oliver, in his evidence. He gave a vivid description of the night of the abduction and of how Oliver was carried in the boot of a car to his interrogators.
The cross-examining barrister, Jim O’Callaghan, acting for Garda Owen Corrigan, said of the evidence – “you are describing the last moments of a man’s life”.
Keeley was the driver for the IRA’s ‘Nutting Squad’ on the night Tom Oliver was kidnapped and took him to his final destination.
Keeley as Fulton also implicated Fred Scappaticci in Tom Oliver’s interrogation at Smithwick. Scappaticci got legal representation to deny both that he was involved in Oliver’s murder and that he was Agent Stakeknife! See also: Investigation: Killusion
The present Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, as Head of Legacy in the PSNI, had a crucial role at Smithwick as the gatekeeper for intelligence and information from the various UK Security Services. He made a last- minute dramatic intervention to present intelligence emanating from M15, of the involvement of a garda who had not been identified to the Tribunal, in setting up Oliver for murder. No name has so far emerged. Drew Harris also named the senior IRA figure he claimed had ordered the murder. See also: How Drew Harris diverted the Smithwick Tribunal.
Operation Kenova and Chief Superintendent Jon Boutcher are interviewing former Gardai and others who may have evidence or intelligence about Tom Oliver’s abduction and murder. Mr Oliver was taken from near his home in Castlecarra Cooley late on the evening of the 18th July while tending cattle. His interrogation, carried out by the Internal Security Squad, was finally ‘adjudicated’ on by a senior member of the Army Council who arrived at a ‘safe house’ in Cooley after breaking off a holiday. He is believed to have overruled the local IRA officer commanding and decided that Tom Oliver must be shot. He was then transported into South Armagh where his battered body was found the next day.
Will Operation Kenova and Jon Boutcher finally achieve justice for Tom Oliver and his family?
OTHER STORIES ABOUT GARDA-RUC-PSNI AFFAIRS ON THIS WEBSITE BY DEIRDRE YOUNGE: